When I first moved out of the house and into the dorms of Marian College, I was no longer relying on my mother to make my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was on my own. But, lucky for me Marian had a full service kitchen that served all three meals a day. It was included in my tuition and I was able to eat whenever and whatever I wanted. But, after two years at a school I knew I would never graduate from, I decided to move on to Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis. Or better known as IUPUI. This decision forced me to get my own place off campus removing the option of eating in the cafeteria every day.
Living on my own was a big change of pace. I was paying all of my own bills, working part time while still going to school, and struggling to save as much as I could. I also had to prepare my own meals if I did not go out and eat every night. Alas, that meant that rather than taking the time to cook, places like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell usually fed me. This led to a habit of eating only once a day. Open my fridge and you would find nothing more than a few Bud Lights and some leftovers from last night’s meal.
I eventually grew out of this and started shopping for my meals. Sure, it meant that I had to spend time cooking and cleaning after each meal, but the food quality was better, it was healthier, and provided for more control of what I wanted to eat. To this day I am still spending a lot of time shopping at my local grocery store and preparing meals. I have actually gotten it down to a routine where I shop every Sunday night for that next week.
When you go to the grocery store, whether you shop at Kroger, Walmart, Target, or Meijer you are going to be hit with so many options you need to almost have a plan when going in. Even around every corner you are hit with what are known as end cap displays that feature on sale items. But are these sale items really on sale? Do the ads that you get in the paper each week and the mailers that are filling our mailbox really saving us that much money? Or is it a way for these grocery stores to get you in the door to get you to spend more money? Below are a handful of ways that grocery stores are tricking us, myself included, into spending more money while shopping for our weekly meals.
Grabbing Your Attention at the Entrance
The last time you walked into a grocery store, did you know what you wanted before you went in? Well, most people might have a list in mind but are easily distracted by the flashy items that are found at the entrance of the grocery store. For instance, at the Kroger where I shop, as soon as you walk in on the left you are hit with a selection of the latest new release novels from all of today’s hottest authors. You also see this walking out of the store. Then there is the flower department but once past that you are hit with signature frozen pizzas, a variety of milk products, and then an array of drinks ranging from soda to Red Bull and everything in between.
However, this is not just something that happens when you enter the store. What do you think is on all of those end caps? Every aisle you turn you are hit with items that are said to be on sale and that are deals too good to pass up. This is a marketing ploy from the folks behind the scenes and while it seems like you are saving money, you are truly just paying last week’s price. I have worked in the grocery industry before and they will raise the price of goods, like soda pop cases, the week before they go on sale. This makes you think you are getting a deal when in reality you are paying what you should be paying based on everyday retail pricing.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in the Produce Department
I go on spurts where I like to eat healthy food. But rarely do I spend a lot of either time nor money in the produce department. However, places like my local Kroger utilize bright lighting, free samples, a wide variety of choices, and organic options to get you interested to buy all of these healthy items. Be smart when shopping in the produce section. I tried to buy an avocado the other day and it was 4/$1.00. Good deal, right? Well, the first avocados that you come across are the organic ones and they were over $2 each. Unless you are paying attention you will spend a ton of money on food that in my opinion doesn’t taste that much different.
Buying Name Brand
When you walk down any number of aisles, you are being forced to make all kinds of decisions. Do I get white bread or wheat bread? Do I pick up a gallon of white milk or chocolate? Perhaps I should get Tide rather than the store brand of laundry detergent. No matter what you are buying, there are always options. So, when buying your groceries pay attention to the items you are picking up. If you can buy a gallon milk for $1.99, but the name brand is only $3.49, which makes more sense? Are you really getting the extra value from that milk? You have to be aware of things like that, specially in an economy like this. You need to pinch pennies. You do have options, and you can afford to buy the store brand every now and then.
Free Samples Are Not Your Friend
How often do you walk around a grocery store and see any number of employees handing out free samples? Whether he or she is handing you a new item from the frozen foods section or they are passing out free samples of their latest hand sanitizer, the idea behind free samples are not that you try these different products but that you buy these products. In the mind of the retail store, if you try this product, like it when you do, then you will be more apt to purchase it. It is no coincidence that on Saturday and Sunday is when you can see more samples at the grocery store.
All I am saying is that you need to be a smart shopper. We are all being effected by this recession, whether for the good or the bad, and we need to consider that buying store brand goods might not be a bad thing. Use coupons as well. You can cut those out of any newspaper and use those to save you on your shopping endeavors. Just be smart. You know how much money you can and should spend on these things, don’t play victim to the retail store and their traps to get you spending more of our hard earned money. Now get out there and save!